RALEIGH, N.C. — A twin-engine Piper airplane being flown by a student pilot had to be landed by the instructor Saturday after experiencing a problem in flight.
The student, accompanied by his instructor, was flying the plane when an engine began to sputter. The instructor took the controls but could not get the plane to stay in the air. He decided to land on an agricultural field at North Carolina State University, just miles from a busy highway, a golf course, and a neighborhood.
Sally Brooks and her husband were driving by on Lake Wheeler Road and saw the plane flying low.
"We were afraid it was in trouble," Brooks said, "because we could tell that it was a small plane and knew that it didn't look like a crop duster."
Because the land was very soft, the instructor landed the plane with no landing gear in an effort to minimize damage to the plane. The plane landed on its belly and slid about 100 yards, bending a propellor.
Neither the student, Michael Brooks, Brent Royston, were hurt. Both walked away.
The landing was witnessed by people playing golf nearby.
The result could have been much worse. Several homes border the field where the plane went down. Bob Thomas had a clear view of it from his back yard.
Neighbors said they are concerned because small planes fly over all the time.
"You don't ever know about these planes around here, where they're going to land," Thomas said. "They're landing in ponds or whatever these days."
Said neighbor Alan Eaton: "If you can visually see a plane down near to where you live, that's too close."
The landing site also was just around the corner from busy Highway 401. Investigators said Royston was fortunate to be able to find an open area to land so close to downtown Raleigh.
"It's very skilled for the minimal amount of damage to the plane, the lack of injury," said Sgt. Jon Barnwell, of NCSU Public Safety. "The pilots did a wonderful job putting the bird on the ground."
Personnel from the National Transportation Safety Board, Raleigh-Durham International Airport and the Federal Aviation Administration all went to the scene to assess the situation.
The plane was registered to the
ATP Flight School
based at RDU.